Last weekend, Colombia’s Festival Estéreo Picnic celebrated its 10th anniversary by welcoming massive acts such as Kendrick Lamar, Grupo Niche, Underworld, and Interpol to its stages. But while groups with international name recognition are usually the festival’s main attraction, organizers also make a point to save room for emerging artists trickling out of Colombia’s independent scenes. Giving local talent a boost has been a longtime mission of Festival Estéreo Picnic, which has helped ensure the longevity of homegrown bands like Bomba Estéreo and Monsieur Perine.
This year, the three-day event featured a broad sampling of some of the country’s freshest sounds, ranging from the shoegaze magic of Margarita Siempre Viva to the buoyant Afro-Colombian salsa swing of Absalon & Afropacifico. The eclecticism of the artists reflects the diverse styles percolating in places like Bogotá and Medellín, both music centers in the country. After seeing the best of what the festival offered regionally, Remezcla compiled a list of the most impressive musical endeavors coming out of Colombia. Below, check out the groups that hyped us up and made us want to soak up the country’s myriad soundscapes and undeniable creativity just a little longer.
Margarita Siempre Viva
Nostalgia isn’t an easy thing for a contemporary band to pull off, and yet this Medellín five-piece comprised of 20-something-year-olds packs gut-wrenching wistfulness into their searing noise rock. The band’s few releases – La luz que dejaste regar, Primavera Febril, and Habitación de Flagelos en C – sound like the kind of haunting shoegaze that could score the most intense moments of an Araki film. And as punchy as their studio recordings are, Margarita Siempre Viva is at its most disarming when the band’s acrobatic guitar arrangements are blasting in front of a live audience, making their performances nothing short of face-melting.
The neo-soul artist Mabiland has brought something entirely new to Colombia’s underground scene with her mellow, rounded out voice, which lets her experiment with all kinds of R&B and hip-hop. The 25-year-old from Quibdó moved to Medellín as a teenager and began her steady ascent into the music world, easily flipping between confident raps and hushed vocals. She turned heads at Bogotá’s Festival Hermoso Ruido last year, and her performances have continually cemented her as a standout that deserves larger stages and audiences of Estéreo Picnic’s scale to continue developing her ultra-sleek act.
La Payara has a set so lively, it practically brims with color. The three-piece crew from Bogotá has won the city over by melding thundering Afro-Colombian beats and crisp, psychedelic polyrhythms. Claudio Tantimónaco leads the electronic band’s explosive energy, which erupts from the power of its percussion and gets added flourishes from a spread of indigenous instruments that include flutes, small guitars, and tambor drums. They’re refreshingly bold and energetic, which might explain why Bomba Estéreo’s Li Saumet has connected with their sound (she spotted Tantimónaco at a party last year and invited him to play the band’s Estéreo Beach festival).
Absalon & Afropacifico
Absalon Sinisterra, a musician who hails from Colombia’s coastal region of Timbiquí Cauca, has been reminding audiences of the unquestionable power of salsa as a solo act for years. But since 2010, he’s teamed up with the group Afropacifico, and together they’ve been putting together explosive shows that get even the most timid dancers moving. The Bogotá-based supergroup unites a huge number of players for livewire instrumentals, and at one point, Absalon and a few others took turns showing off their skills in an epic marimba battle that quickly made it obvious that their talents are endless.
Rap Bang Club
This hip-hop duo, made up of rappers Pezcatore and Karin B., gained steady popularity in Colombia by recording videos of their one-take tracks and freestyles on YouTube. They joined forces a few years ago in Bogotá, and their project has been served by the fact that they each bring completely different styles to their music. Karin B. goes for the jugular with hard-hitting rhymes, while Pezcatore stretches his voice to fit genres like jazz, funk, and reggae. Their off-the-cuff performances gave them range and ensure that their personalities stand out in the country’s rap scene.